The Seeker’s Guide to Bufo alvarius

The Seeker's Guide to Bufo alvarius

and 5-MeO-DMT

Bufo alvarius, also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad, has a very special secret: the venom from its glands can be dried and smoked to induce some of the most intense psychedelic experiences known to us. 

Yet despite its powerful hallucinogenic effects, Bufo venom has no established history of traditional shamanic use. Instead, it is popular in modern neo-shamanic rituals that take advantage of the short duration of its effects to provide people with a quick but profound mystical experience.

This guide is intended for those who would like to experience Bufo in a safe and legal framework. It should be used for harm reduction and education purposes only and contains no advice about obtaining prohibited substances.

Smoking Bufo venom comes with a number of different risks. Irresponsible and negligent facilitation has already led to several deaths among psychedelic adventurers and seekers of personal healing.


Who This Guide Is For

The Seeker's Guide to Bufo alvarius was written for everyone interested in Bufo medicine. This could be anyone from the psychedelic curious to the experienced Bufo facilitator.

We aim to provide balanced, relevant, and practical information for those looking to learn about Bufo. Considering the unique lack of shamanic tradition associated with Bufo, information about safe practices needs to come from modern sources, rather than from indigenous wisdom.

This guide explains how to use Bufo responsibly and where to find a safe and responsible retreat. It also includes materials for preparation for a powerful psychedelic journey, tips for facilitators, and information on how to incorporate the experience from a Bufo ceremony into your daily life.

How to Use this Guide

This guide is split into two sections.

  1. Bufo 101. This first section provides crucial background information about Bufo and its history, allowing you, the seeker, to understand Bufo alvarius from a cultural and scientific perspective.
  2. How to do Bufo alvarius. The second part includes information on what you should expect from an experience with Bufo, as well as the safety concerns and risks associated with this medicine, and harm reduction strategies. You’ll also learn how to choose a safe Bufo retreat center or facilitator.

Although Bufo alvarius is a potent psychedelic medicine that may not be appropriate for the majority of psychedelic seekers, we believe that those who do choose to use it should be well-informed on strategies to help reduce risk and enhance its healing potential.

We hope that with the help of this guide, you’ll be able to make the best and safest decision possible about your journey.

This guide was created as a labor of love, from the depths of our hearts to you.

With So Much Love,
Lorna Liana & the EntheoNation Team

Part 1:
Bufo 101

Bufo alvarius, also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad or Colorado River Toad, is a species of toad native to northwestern Mexico and some southern US states.

This toad stands out from others because of the venom it produces. Although normally toxic when ingested by humans, the dried venom can be smoked to produce an intense and short-lasting psychedelic experience.

Although there is no clear evidence of Bufo alvarius being used in traditional shamanism, the psychoactive components of the venom (mainly 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin) have been used in various shamanic practices with plants such as Anadenanthera peregrina (yopo) and Virola elongata.

Neo-shamanic practices involving the use of Bufo venom have increased in popularity over the last few decades, with many people interested in the short but highly mystical experience it can produce.

Unlike other similar natural psychedelics, Bufo venom appears to have some toxicity, and ceremonies can be fatal if not facilitated responsibly.

The History of Bufo alvarius

Unlike many other natural psychedelics, the venom of the Bufo alvarius toad appears not to have any traditional shamanic use – or, if it once did, those practices died out some time ago. Modern indigenous people in the areas where Bufo lives have no record of shamanic practices involving the toad.

Highly speculative anthropological evidence suggests that toad medicine might have been used at some point in Mesoamerica, due to the presence of toad iconography in temples and on artifacts, but this is by no means conclusive evidence of the use of toad venom as a religious sacrament. [1]

Anyone who claims that their way of working with Bufo is “ancient and sacred” is at the very least exaggerating. In contemporary usage, Bufo is commonly found in neo-shamanic ceremonial settings, that may include drumming, chanting, smudging and other rituals. Any “indigenous seeming” Bufo practices like this are examples of neo-shamanism that have been amalgamated from a variety of traditions, and are not rooted in specific knowledge from an unbroken ancestral lineage.

Ancient Bufo by Brad Collins

Artist credit: Brad Collins

Bufo alvarius venom was first chemically examined in 1965; the paper that showed that it contained the psychoactive substance 5-MeO-DMT was published shortly after. [2] In the mid-1980s, after the first description of smoking Bufo alvarius venom was published in the form of an extraordinary pamphlet titled “Bufo alvarius: The Psychedelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert,” smoking toad venom became a fringe, underground phenomenon.[3]

5-MeO-DMT is a chemical with a history of shamanic use in the form of some plant-based snuffs. Most often, plants that contain 5-MeO-DMT also contain other psychoactive components such as DMT and bufotenin. Ground and dried seeds of plants such as Anadenanthera peregrina (yopo) and Virola elongata are ground up into a snuff which is blown into the participant’s nostrils by a shaman, in ceremonies using specially-crafted pipes. The practice of using yopo snuff has been found in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. [4] These traditions date back thousands of years; bufotenin, a substance often found alongside 5-MeO-DMT in many plants, has been found in the remains of a shamanic pouch in the Andes mountains, dated at 1,000 years old. [5]

Because it was not included in the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971, 5-MeO-DMT is not a restricted substance in most nations. However, this compound is a Class A/Schedule I substance in the United States and the United Kingdom. As a result, consuming Bufo venom in these countries may be considered unlawful.

Bufotenin, another psychoactive component found in Bufo alvarius venom, is likewise not controlled in most countries, but it is classified as a Class A/Schedule I substance in the US and the UK.

The Pharmacology of Bufo alvarius

Bufo alvarius venom contains a number of toxic chemicals, including bufotoxin, that can kill small animals and do serious damage to humans. Thankfully, drying and smoking the venom destroys these toxins.

What is left is mainly 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin, two chemicals with similarities to DMT. Both bufotenin [6] and 5-MeO-DMT [7] are powerful psychedelics; several times as potent as DMT, requiring much smaller doses to have the same effect.

Although very little research has been done on bufotenin, we know more about 5-MeO-DMT. Similarly to DMT and other classic psychedelics, 5-MeO-DMT activates serotonin receptors; and mainly the 5-HT2A receptor. [8] The boost in serotonin that 5-MeO-DMT causes is thought to be linked to the psychedelic effects.

A low dose of 5-MeO-DMT would be around 1-3mg when inhaled. Since most Bufo venom contains around 15% 5-MeO-DMT by dry weight, [3] this would involve vaporizing around 6-10mg of dried venom as a starter dose.

Smoking the venom produces an intense experience, often considered more intense than DMT due to the combination of 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin. It only takes a few seconds for the effects to kick in, and they typically last about 15 minutes, usually subsiding after around 40 minutes. Some say the psychedelic “afterglow” can be felt for as long as days or weeks following the session.

Smoking Bufo can be physiologically risky. It can cause muscle tremors, a reduction in breathing rate, and nausea/vomiting. The experience can be very intense, especially for people with heart conditions or who are naive to psychedelics. When additional medications or substances are brought into the equation, effects can be fatal. Do not combine Bufo venom, or 5-MeO-DMT, with MAOIs (including ayahuasca). There are several reports of deaths resulting from these combinations. [9]

Healing with Bufo alvarius

The practice of inhaling Bufo alvarius venom has become increasingly popular in a variety of ceremonial settings in recent years, as neo-shamanic Bufo facilitators have begun offering to administer the medicine in ceremonies aimed at addressing spiritual or physical issues. However, compared to other psychedelics, research into 5-MeO-DMT is sparse, and there is not yet a consensus on its therapeutic potential.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that 5-MeO-DMT can be used to treat opioid dependence or other addictions. Some ibogaine treatment clinics combine 5-MeO-DMT with iboga to evoke a mystical experience in participants that can enhance iboga's anti-addictive benefits.

One study of proteins in artificial human organs found that 5-MeO-DMT reduced the levels of an addiction receptor (mGluR5), implying that it may have anti-addictive properties of its own,[10] and another survey of 5-MeO-DMT users found that 66 percent of people with alcoholism saw improvements after taking the substance.[11]

One survey of 350 people who had been participants in Bufo sessions showed that people who had been suffering from depression or anxiety were very likely to experience improvements in their conditions after the session. 80% of people with depression said that their symptoms were improved, and 79% of people with anxiety reported improvements. [12]

The Bufo experience comes with many risks, and should not be seen as a “magic pill” treatment of your issues. As with any intense psychedelic experience, there is a risk of psychological damage if adequate preparation and integration is not carried out. There are potentially deadly substance interactions, and some medical conditions that make Bufo use unadvisable. Poor facilitation of your ceremony can be fatal, with several deaths linked to facilitators engaging in unethical practices, or neglecting their participants. Read more in our section on Risks.

Still curious? Our Beginner’s Guide to Healing with Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT has more in-depth information.

The Healing Power of the Mystical Experience

Bufo experiences are primarily sought out for personal development reasons. Seekers hope that the powerful mystical experience of complete ego dissolution and “One with the Universe” experience that it elicits will provide freedom and a new perspective that will allow the individual to break free of limiting patterns and the grip of old traumas.

Research has shown that the magnitude of the spiritual experience that accompanies some psychedelic trips is directly related to the healing benefits. [13][14] 5-MeO-DMT has been shown to effectively invoke a mystical experience in around 75% of people who take it, and the intensity of the experience is comparable to a high-dose magic mushroom trip. [15]

A sense of realization or awakening, a meeting with some form of universal truth or reality, and a sense of interconnection or timelessness are all common themes in mystical experiences. People frequently claim mystical experiences give them a new perspective on life, as well as new inspiration to make positive changes. Bufo journeys seem to generally fit the paradigm of a profound mystical experience.

You can start to understand why the mystical experience might be linked to healing after reading some 5-MeO-DMT experiences:

“I found myself floating in what I can only describe as an eternal, infinite void. In this ‘dimension’, there was no time, and no space. I forgot their meanings. I forgot my human senses, all of them. This perception was so direct and total, that it was beyond any sense; it was not visual, not tactile, not soniferous... It was everything at once and more. Unified, undefined, compressed. I forgot the life I had before. I forgot who or what I used to be. One thing only was certain: I was. I was this omnipotent flow of purity. When this realization popped out, it was so deep and clear, that I could only think ‘This is absolutely incredible,’ although it was a feeling rather than a thought. An obvious and undeniable feeling, a beam of unprocessed truth. Like opening my eyes to light for the first time. And discovering existence as what it truly is. I remained in this state for what felt like an eternity. Immersed in this divine light. One with it. The serenity I felt was of cosmic proportions. It was intense, even more so than the destructive energy of before, but this time, it was positive and healing. It felt like home. Home of the soul. The one and only place I ever wanted to end up within. While deeply mystical and mysterious, there was nothing to understand, nothing to analyze, nothing to conceptualize... It was the clearest, and the most obvious, and the most unquestionable feeling ever.”

- account from [16]

 [2]“From beyond the center of my being issued forth two distinct and inseparable projections. With the fury and potency of all of the pain and all of the ecstasy of creation, came a scream that shook the very foundations of matter itself. From beyond the portals of time and space issued an orgasm that was the birth of stars, galaxies and Universes. With it came an effluent, projectile emission that was the healing, furious waters of Ma Ganga, pouring from the center of heaven’s gate to wash away all of the sins of the ancestors of humanity, to purge all of the holiest places and to asperge every sacred rite performed throughout time. And in this I was born into Being. Born into the birthright of every child, into pure bliss riding the waves of Divine Consciousness, the joy of innocence that cannot be lost because it is inherently what we ARE, reclaiming the lila of the Goddess for every misplaced child of creation, transported through laughter, through tears and through songs sung in words that have been buried long ago in the sands of time, obliterated in the dust of stars. She welcomed me into Her Manifest Fullness. All that was, was the knowing: Shivaa’Ham – Divine, Sacred Feminine, I Am That..”

- account from Erowid [17]

“[There] was an immediate complete dissolution of any identity and a merging into the Oneness, timeless, pure awareness and light energy of the Universe. An enlightenment experience. Complete clarity. I also had the experience of energetically dumping everything that I had been holding onto from the past up to that point in my life. There was a knowing that all of my previous ‘suffering’ was designed perfectly and got me to this point in time where I could have such a direct experience of my (our) true nature.”

- account from Erowid [18]

Sustaining the Bufo alvarius population

The increase in the popularity of Bufo ceremonies has created corresponding pressure on toad populations, and raised the question of long-term sustainability.

Although Bufo alvarius is not an endangered species, its numbers are declining, [19] probably due to the increase in human interest. Since Bufo alvarius spends most of its time underground, hunters search for the toad during its short mating season.

Although the milking of the venom itself does not harm the toads, if done responsibly, the toads’ habitats are being encroached upon by fervent venom hunters, and this will undeniably have an effect on this species. Additionally, some black market vendors are selling the toads in order to establish farms, taking the largest and most fertile toads out of their native ecosystems. [19]

Synthetic 5-MeO-DMT is a sustainable alternative to milking Bufo alvarius toads, and appears to have very similar psychedelic effects to smoking Bufo venom. Dozens of plants are a natural source of 5-MeO-DMT, and present a more sustainable option than the milking of toads.

If you attend a Bufo retreat, make sure to ask where the venom was sourced, and if it was done responsibly and sustainably. Ideally, the venom would have been obtained from non-farmed toads, who were milked harmlessly, and returned to their native habitat.

For details on conservation efforts that you can donate to, see our Resources section.

Part 2:

Whatever brings you to Bufo, it's critical that you explore the medicine thoughtfully, safely, and respectfully.

If you're concerned about the well-being of the toads, you should look for Bufo ceremonies where the venom was sourced with respect and care.

Furthermore, because 5-MeO-DMT is not the safest compound to smoke, you must make sure that the circle or ritual you attend is led by someone who has extensive knowledge and experience serving the medicine.

Here are our guidelines on preparing for a meaningful and safe Bufo experience.

Choosing the Ideal Bufo alvarius Retreat

The first step is to pick where and how you want to experience Bufo. Although some people prefer to take Bufo without the assistance of a facilitator or sitter, we don’t recommend doing this. The intensity of the Bufo experience can be substantially higher than that with many classical psychedelics, so it's always essential to have a sober sitter - and preferably an experienced facilitator.

Many Bufo alvarius retreats provide the opportunity to take Bufo in a ceremonial, guided setting. These differ in terms of the level of luxury they offer and the amount of mysticism imbued in the ceremony.

Bufo novices may benefit from retreats in that they (ideally) provide the level of care and support needed for an introduction to this powerful psychedelic. When choosing a retreat, you should assess the following factors:

  • Location. Is it easy to get to the retreat? Do you need to travel by plane or is it simply a drive away? Is it in another country or local?
  • Legality. Is it legal to use Bufo in the host country? Taking Bufo somewhere where it is legal may make you feel safer and reassured. Your retreat should be aware of the legal status of Bufo and 5-MeO-DMT and can advise you on the safety element.

  • Mysticism. Within the ceremony, certain retreats may use mystical or spiritual practices more than others. Make sure you know what to expect and whether it suits your intentions or if a more practical or basic ceremony would be better for you.

  • The Ceremonial Space. You may prefer the idea of tripping in nature; or perhaps a comfy inside space. Many Bufo retreats have their participants outside and often will use natural water sources to evoke sensations of rebirth.

  • The Practitioners. Would you prefer your retreat to be run by psychologists, therapists, and medical professionals? Or are you content with a neo-shamanic healer? Licensed therapists aren't essential for a successful ceremony, but it's a good idea to think about your facilitators' qualifications and experience.
  • Group Activities. During certain retreats, the group is required to move or chant together, or even complete group tasks. Make sure to ask the organizers directly in case you prefer a more individual approach.

  • Restrictions. Some retreats will require you to follow a diet, or practice meditation, before the ceremony. If this isn’t for you, check to make sure what the retreat recommendations and policies are beforehand. Some retreats require you to pass a medical screening to check for a family history of mental health problems, or heart conditions.

  • Amenities. Does the retreat have accommodation? What is the food like? Are there any extras available, such as workshops or massages? Consider how much comfort you'll need to get the most out of the retreat.
  • Cost. This will be directly related to the retreat's level of luxury. Consider your budget, but keep in mind that experienced facilitators aren't cheap!

  • Purpose. What brings you to the retreat? If you’re attending to seek therapeutic support or for help with a serious condition, it’s especially important to consider the retreat’s commitment to safety. Is there a team of trained therapists on hand? Is there medical staff present during ceremony? 

 Once you’ve found a retreat that appears like it’ll be a good fit for you, it’s important to ensure the retreat and its facilitators are trustworthy and safety-conscious.

The effects of Bufo can be extremely overpowering and have been fatal in the past when combined with poor facilitation or inadequate medical supervision. There have been cases of abusive facilitators (such as Octavio Rettig and Gerry Sandoval) directly or indirectly causing deaths and injuries at their retreats.

You should conduct extensive research into your chosen retreat to ensure that they have a good track record and take the safety of their guests seriously:

  • Search for the retreat's and/or facilitators’ name together with terms like "fraud," "scam," "death," or "scandal." Make sure to read a few pages because savvy marketers know how to hide bad search results.
  • Join online forums or Facebook groups and use the same negative keywords to look for mentions of the retreat.
  • If possible, find previous participants and inquire about their experiences. Make sure to ask if they had any concerns or if anything made them feel uneasy.
  • Take a look at review sites that rate Bufo retreat centers – see our Resources section for more information.

Remember that a competent Bufo facilitator should strictly  be a supportive and passive presence during the ceremony, and should not interact with you in any manner other than to keep you safe.

Facilitators who give their participants electric shocks, rapé, or pour water into their lungs during the experience, should be avoided. You might think that would go without saying, but some facilitators (including Octavio Rettig) have been responsible for several deaths due to these dangerous methods.

Also keep in mind that a Bufo facilitator should be totally focussed on you during the entire experience. Avoid ceremonies or retreats where one facilitator has their attention split between multiple participants at once. It can only take a moment for a Bufo experience to turn deadly, so choose a facilitator who you know won’t take any risks.

Taking Bufo alvarius Outside a Retreat

 Retreats aren't for everyone, and if you've used psychedelics before, you might think you're capable of setting up your own trip environment.

When using a potentially harmful entheogen like Bufo venom, however, it’s always recommended to have a sitter present.

Your sitter should ideally be an experienced Bufo facilitator who knows how to assist trippers through intense and demanding experiences while also keeping them safe throughout the peak.

The sitter should, at the absolute least, be sober and:

  • Know the space. Know where the amenities are, as well as where to get food, water, and outside help. Help maintain a comfortable environment and ensure the tripper’s safety.

  • Know the medicine. Know how much Bufo is an optimal dose, how long it’ll last, and what kind of side effects to be prepared for.
  • Know how to keep the tripper safe. Bufo can have intense effects, and trippers often lose control of their body. A good sitter must prepare the environment to be able to control any wild movements and calm the tripper down if they are in distress.

  • Know the tripper. Recognize why they're taking Bufo and what they may require during the journey. Set any precise physical contact boundaries beforehand.

  • Be a gentle presence. A good sitter doesn’t steer the tripper in a specific direction unless there's a definite necessity for it. They are a silent, supporting presence who offers gentle reassurance when necessary. They are not a therapist; their main job is to just be there and keep the tripper safe.

Some basic tips for setting up an at-home Bufo experience are:

  • Prepare the space. Make sure you’ll be comfortable, and keep any sharp or dangerous objects out of the space. Make sure no one will interrupt you. If you are tripping outside, make sure it is a familiar place that has no hazards (i.e. deep water, cliffs).

  • Follow the usual preparations as if you were attending a retreat. See the section below and prepare yourself to have a transformational experience.

Preparing for Bufo alvarius

Whether you’re attending a retreat, or tripping in your own home, it’s important to do some preparation for the experience.

Many retreats will have a set plan for your preparation, including a diet, meditation practices, or group sharing circles and workshops.

If your retreat doesn’t have a preparation routine, or you’re tripping at home, we recommend familiarizing yourself with these common practices that could help maximize the effects of the Bufo alvarius experience.

Spiritual Practices to Use with Bufo alvarius

 In order to maximize the benefits of a spiritual endeavor, it’s recommended to practice some level of dieting and abstinence.

Avoiding TV, social media, processed food, and sexual activity may help you get the most out of your journey.Yoga, meditation, mindfulness practice, writing, and solitary walks in the woods are all good ways to spend the days leading up to your ceremony.

Start by spiritually communing with Nature before your date-night with her, when you'll throw open the doors to direct communication with the toad spirit.

Being in a mindful headspace will greatly enhance your Bufo experience. Reflect on whatever is significant to you in preparing for a ceremony, even if you aren't comfortable with a spiritual approach to preparation.

Bufo Mandala

Artist credit: Phrase (Honghikuri)

Setting Intention with Bufo alvarius

Spiritual practices can assist you in setting your intention, which is an important element of any psychedelic journey. Having a clear aim in mind for what aspects of yourself or the world you want to explore during your experience can boost your chances of learning something impactful.

Make sure you don't mix up "intentions" and "expectations." You could spend days or weeks focusing on a specific goal, just for Bufo to decide it won't be helping you work on that this time. Consider your intentions as a foundation - a safe place to return to if you fall off track. However, don't expect Bufo to follow those intentions as a rule of thumb. Expect to lose control and be taken to unexpected places.

The Risks of Bufo alvarius

Bufo venom is not a risk-free entheogen. Not only are there some pharmacological interactions to be aware of, but your general health should be good so you can withstand the profound experience, and you should have highly safety-minded facilitators.

Most deaths associated with Bufo use involve poor or negligent facilitation. Due to the intense nature of the experience, participants often lose their ability to move or breathe properly. Deaths have resulted from facilitators not paying adequate attention to participants who were in distress, and unable to breathe; and other deaths have been due to irresponsible practices such as forcing water into participants’ lungs, or using electric shocks. See our Resources section for a link to an open letter denouncing these practices.

To minimize these risks, make sure you are in good health before your experience, and only trip with facilitators who you have researched and who you trust to take your safety as a priority.

There are some drug interactions that could be dangerous when using Bufo alvarius venom or 5-MeO-DMT:

  • Lithium. This is sometimes given as a mediator in combination with some forms of medication. Numerous reports suggest that lithium can cause fatal seizures and heart attacks when mixed with psychedelics like 5-MeO-DMT. [20] Do not take Bufo or 5-MeO-DMT if you are taking lithium.

  • Tramadol. This is a synthetic opioid that affects the serotonin system and lowers the threshold for seizures. There appears to be a real risk of serotonin syndrome if you combine Tramadol with 5-MeO-DMT, [21] which can be fatal. Tramadol is also sold as Ultram.

  • SSRI medications. Currently there is no evidence that this combination is risky, although there is a theoretical chance of Serotonin Syndrome if high doses are combined. Don’t risk taking Bufo or 5-MeO-DMT with high doses of SSRI medications. Common SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, and Zoloft.

  • MAOI medications. There have been several cases of deaths from the combination of 5-MeO-DMT with MAOIs. [9] Avoid being on any MAOI medication if you plan to take Bufo or 5-MeO-DMT. Also avoid any MAOI-influencing psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, in the week before and after a Bufo experience. Common MAOIs include Emsam, Marplan, Nardil, and Parnate.

  • Heart or blood pressure medications. Bufo can drastically affect your heart rate, and breathing. If you are on heart or blood pressure medications, consider getting a medical professional’s opinion before taking Bufo or 5-MeO-DMT.

It's crucial to recognize that any psychedelic experience comes with psychological risks in addition to the physical ones; it can be very intense to have your perceptions and ideas substantially altered by a chemical compound.

During a 5-MeO-DMT or Bufo session, people frequently experience intense dread and distress. Bufo alvarius, perhaps more than any other psychedelic, can be both traumatic and healing, and considerable preparation as well as awareness of the hazards are essential for a safe experience.

If you're working with a skilled facilitator and have a solid support structure in place, you're less likely to experience serious consequences.

If you've gone through a distressing experience, practicing proper integration strategies with qualified facilitators can help you avoid long-term psychological damage and help you perceive the journey in a positive way. In our Resources area, you can learn more about integration.

The Bufo alvarius Experience

Bufo alvarius venom is dried and smoked, usually through a pipe. A good starter dose is around 6-10mg of venom, but your facilitator may judge your dose depending on your preference and experience.

The effects will begin only a few seconds after smoking, and the most intense of these will last for around 10-15 minutes. The effects will subside after around 40 minutes, leaving you with an afterglow that some say can last as long as several days following the experience.

Smoking the venom produces an intense experience, often considered more intense than DMT due to the combination of 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin. It involves an enormous expansion of bodily awareness, and an almost immediate transportation to other realms and realities. You may lose track of your identity, in a process sometimes called “ego loss,” and find yourself a disembodied component of some greater cosmic system, eventually being pieced back together into human form.

Trippers describe intense physical feelings, often of tactile enhancement and an almost erotic sensual quality. Visual effects are often reported to be underwhelming compared to other psychedelics such as DMT. Concepts such as time, the continuity of objects, and duality can quickly dissolve, leaving the tripper floating in some form of cosmic apotheosis.

Bufo trip

Artist credit: Aurumescens

The comedown is also relatively quick, with a return to earth and human form happening within a few minutes after the peak of the experience. From here, the tripper might feel a gradual subsiding of the experience lasting for some time. Due to the profound and intense nature of the trip, Bufo participants can find themselves struggling to grasp the meaning of the experience for days, weeks, or months following the ceremony. In this case, integration practices are especially recommended.

Letting Go with Bufo alvarius

During a Bufo experience, it's possible to have shocking, unpleasant, or distressing sensations and thoughts. That's understandable: most of us aren't used to coming into such close communion with powerful spirit medicines, and it's unusual for someone to have a completely pleasant experience with no difficulties.Letting go is the key to not allowing the intense or negative aspects of the experience to overwhelm you. Try to let go of control and trust that you will be taken care of. 

That doesn’t mean that you are expected to not have any trepidations about your upcoming journey. Fear is a natural reaction to unfamiliar experiences. As Terence McKenna put it:

“[The fear] marks the experience as existentially authentic. [...] A touch of terror gives the stamp of validity to the experience because it means, ‘This is real.’ We are in the balance. We read the literature, we know the maximum doses, and so on. But nevertheless, so great is one’s faith in the mind that when one is out in it one comes to feel that the rules of pharmacology do not really apply and that control of existence on that plane is really a matter of focus of will and good luck.”

- Terence McKenna [22]

So it's natural to be afraid when you're thrown out of your typical frame of reference, since all of a sudden, the firm ground beneath your feet transforms into a plunge into the unknown. It’s important to be able to accept this new and frightening scenario.

Instead of thrashing about in the nothingness underneath you, remember that this is a normal part of the psychedelic experience, and the thing that will help you most is letting go. Lean into the fear and embrace this new reality.

Remember that you are safe and that you are being looked after. Welcome the difficulties and the joys, the ups and the downs of the experience. Try to give up your sense of self to Bufo and recognize that it knows best. Take the lessons it teaches you in a humble and open manner.

Integration with Bufo alvarius

The Bufo experience can be so unique and profound that a conscious effort is needed to effectively integrate it into your life. This process can take days, weeks, or even years, and it starts right after your journey.

Some facilitators will reach out to you after the ceremony to talk about your experience and assist you in interpreting parts of it that you’re having difficulty with. After the main ceremony, most good retreats will include time for a sharing circle, when you can hear about other people's experiences and express your own.

It's a good idea to keep up any spiritual activities you were doing before the encounter in the days and weeks afterward, and see how they feel different. Through these practices, revisit the experience and consider which aspects of your Bufo journey you wish to incorporate into your life and how.

If words don’t seem to be doing the job, try expressing yourself through art or music. And, if your retreat allows it, keep in touch with your facilitator or guide. Consider seeing a trained integration provider if you're having trouble processing certain aspects of the experience; they're a growing class of professionals who specialize in helping individuals process their psychedelic experiences. For further information, see our Resources section.

Read our in-depth Psychedelic Integration Guide for Bufo & 5-MeO-DMT for more details.


As far as the Bufo toads go, harvesting them is possible and legal with a few restrictions. In New Mexico, only state residents may collect them without a license. In Arizona, both residents and non-residents may harvest a maximum of 10 Bufo toads with a valid fishing license. In California, where their numbers are much lower, it’s a misdemeanor to collect toads and possession is against the law. The Bufo toad is a threatened species and we do not support their capture.

As for 5-MeO-DMT, Canada and Mexico have the substance unregulated, but it's illegal in most other Western countries. [23]
Extracting the venom from the toad for use in psychedelic purposes in any country where 5-MeO-DMT is a scheduled substance is illegal.

What Next?

For many people, the period following their first Bufo experience feels like a fresh start. You may feel as though some of your demons or issues have been exposed and cleaned, or the world may feel rejuvenated. You might have received a new purpose in life, or you might have been reminded of one you already had.

Bufo can set you on the path to a long journey in various ways. There will always be more to learn, more ways to develop, and more healing to take place.


How is Bufo administered?

Once the toad venom is collected, it is dried and then smoked, normally from a glass pipe.

Where are Bufo toads found?

These toads are endemic to the Colorado River area in the Sonoran Desert, southern Arizona, small areas of California and New Mexico, and they can be found throughout the Mexican part of the Sonoran Desert.

Are Bufo toads poisonous to humans?

Yes. Their venom can irritate the skin or burn the eyes, but it can also have an impact on the heart if it gets into the bloodstream.

Where can I find a Bufo ceremony?

Bufo ceremonies can be found by networking on bufo communities online or through retreat and ceremony search portals. You can find links to these in our Resources section. We strongly advise against participating in illegal circles and ones with inexperienced and unethical facilitators. Do your vetting before trusting someone with your life.

How do Bufo and kambo compare?

Although they are both venoms harvested from amphibians, unlike Bufo, kambo is not psychedelic and is very mildly, if at all, psychoactive. The main effects of kambo are purgative. The venoms are also administered in different ways—Bufo is smoked and kambo is applied to small holes burned into the receivers skin.

Where can I buy Bufo online?

While Bufo toads can sometimes be found for sale online, we do not condone trade of live animals. As for 5-MeO-DMT, it's available to purchase from vendors in Canada, Mexico, and other countries where the substance isn’t controlled. If you don’t live in one of these countries, it’s illegal to have 5-MeO-DMT shipped into a country where it's regulated.

Is Bufo addictive?

No. It's actually used to battle substance addiction.

Does Bufo cause tolerance?

Bufo causes an immediate tolerance, which goes away after a few hours.

How to identify a Bufo toad?

Bufo alvarius is a large toad with grey, olive green, dark brown or reddish brown skin. It has smooth skin with interspersed warts of varying colors depending on its skin color. The head features a pointed snout with a bony ridge between the eyes and the nose. Behind the eyes on each side, large parotoid glands, which produce the toxin, are a prominent identifying feature.

Are Bufo toads poisonous to dogs / cats?

Yes. Numerous reports exist on pets being poisoned after linking a Bufo toad. These incidents can be lethal.

When are Bufo toads active?

Bufo toads are nocturnal animals. They spend most of the day inside their burrows. As the heat of the day drops, they come out to find food.

How do Bufo and ayahuasca compare?

The experiences are very distinct. Both are highly psychedelic, but smoking Bufo venom creates an almost instantaneous, intense, and short trip which sometimes causes immense confusion and loss of control of bodily movements. Unlike Bufo , the onset of ayahuasca is gradual, the journey takes much longer, it can be much more visual, and usually leaves the drinkers mostly immobile throughout the trip.

Where is 5-MeO-DMT legal?

It appears that 5-MeO-DMT use is legal in Mexico. It's also not regulated in Canada.

Can Bufo be detected in a drug test?

5-MeO-DMT is not a substance any standard or extended drug tests screen for.

Can you overdose on Bufo?

It's possible to overdose on Bufo venom, but it's much more dangerous if ingested before it had been dried. Overdose on inhaling Bufo manifests in breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness, and requires immediate medical attention.


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Additional Artist Credits

  • Title background image / featured image: Yelgato Hernández
  • Part 1 background image: Michael Garfield
  • Part 2 background image: Mismísimo Vic
  • Part 2 featured image: Chris Dyer
  • Part 3 background image: Amanda Sage